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Barenaked Stan!

In the wake of my Comic Con review post, a handful of people have asked for more details on the Barenaked Ladies concert. How was the show? Do I really know Ed Robertson? How did THAT happen?So I thought I’d elucidate. (For those of you who have been reading this blog for a long time, I think all of this will be material I’ve covered before … so, feel free to skip or skim it, as you like.)

Shortly after I’d moved to Wisconsin and joined the TSR staff, I learned from a college friend of mine that Barenaked Ladies was playing a concert in Chicago. Since we both were fans, we decided to go … and while at the show, I unexpectedly bumped into one of my new co-workers, Sean Reynolds. We both were surprised that the other was a BNL fan and, over the intervening weeks, we talked about that and other things, cementing what was to become a very strong friendship. (Yay, Sean!)

A month or so later, Sean told me that BNL would be coming to play in Milwaukee and asked if I wanted to get tickets to see them again. He also, as an aside, said that he might be able to get us backstage passes. When I asked how, he said that he and Ed Robertson were email pals, having met on Compuserve or Prodigy or one of those old pre-AOL online services. I was blown away and immediately asked, “Does he know where you work?”

Sean seemed taken aback by the questions. “No,” he said. “Why would I tell him that? I want him to invite us backstage, not say ‘get the hell away from me, geek!'”

I pulled out the CD case for Sean’s copy of Gordon, BNL’s first album … with the original cover photo, featuring the still very young members of the band. They looked like a group of college-age guys, goatees, scraggly haircuts, nerdy glasses … in other words, they looked like us. “These guys,” I said, pointing at the cover. “These guys are geeks like us! They know D&D … I guarantee it!” To back up my point, I cited the fact that the songs on Gordon contained references to the Fantastic Four, Wrath of Khan, and at least one or two more geek-culture touchstones. “Tell them, Sean!”

Reluctantly, he did, and later reported that Ed, at least, was a former D&D player … and was at least modestly impressed at our place of employment. And he DID promise us aftershow passes.

A bunch of us went to the show, and we brought gifts … current copies of the D&D core rulebooks and a few other projects that we were personally involved with. And when we met up with the band after the show, half of them totally geeked out over it all. (The other half looked at their bandmates like they suddenly had grown third eyes.) They invited us back to the “rock & roll bus” where we drank some beers, ate some chips and mutually geeked out.

“That show was awesome!” we said. “The new album is your best yet!”

“I once killed a beholder with a single attack!” they said. “Let me tell you about my 17th-level paladin!”

It was a singularly weird and wonderful evening.

Over the next few years, in both Wisconsin and Washington, whenever BNL would come to town, Sean and I and a growing group of friends would get tickets, and Ed would leave us a few aftershow passes.

I got to meet the band 4 or 5 times, in total. And, by the third time, as we greeted them after the show, Ed would recall my name without any prompting. I’d made enough of an impression that I was more than just “part of Sean’s crew,” and that felt pretty cool.

But the last time I’d seen the band was back in 2004. And while all those aftershow meetings were really special highlights for me … they were exactly what happens for members of a touring rock band after EVERY show … a hundred or more nights every year. So I had no real expectation that I’d made any special impression on them at all. I figured, I was in their memory in very situational conditions.

So, when I saw Ed walking by on the Comic Con floor and called out to him, I was expecting to have to explain who I was. At best, I figured I might get an “I know you from somewhere” look and an “Oh yeah, THAT’S it!” reaction when I explained. But instead, Ed turned around, smiled, and without a missing a beat said “Stan! What’re you doing here? Is this your booth?”

I was, to say the least, flabbergasted. AND it gave me some major “cool points” with my friends and industry peers as I stood there chatting with Ed like we were old friends … which, I guess, we kind of are … in the same way I consider many of the gamers I see at conventions every year to be friends of mine, too (except Ed is obviously better at remembering names than I am).

I said that I hadn’t known that BNL was playing in San Diego, and asked if Ed knew if tickets were still on sale. He, instead, offered me a pair of complementary tickets and, for good measure, threw in aftershow passes, too. (You can see some photos I took in this Facebook album.)

Anyone who has seen Barenaked Ladies perform will doubtless have come away impressed by how much fun they seem to have on stage, and what nice guys they seem to be. I’m here to tell you that they are, indeed, just that nice … and even more so. And I’m really pretty happy and humbled to know that I can call myself a friend of the band, and know that it’s actually true.

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